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Store Profile

Prototype for success

Dan’s Foods floral department draws in customers with high-quality products and attractive merchandising.

by Cynthia L. McGowan

Dan’s Foods’ prototype store in Salt Lake City, Utah, is incorporating the latest trends in store merchandising as part of a company remodeling project. And floral, which is prominently positioned at the front of the store, is an important part of the store’s appeal.
The six-store Dan’s Foods is one of the four banners owned by Associated Retail Stores (ARS), which is a subsidiary of Associated Food Stores, Inc. (AFS), a cooperatively owned wholesale distributor based in Salt Lake City that serves 580 independently owned stores. The prototype Dan’s Foods is dubbed the “Phoenix Project,” and new designs were tried out at the store to determine what would work best at the other 22 ARS-owned stores.
The result is a store that is inviting and shopper-friendly. The colors chosen for the store, which is in the Mill Creek neighborhood in east Salt Lake City, are in nature hues of greens and maroons. Colorful tile on the floor complements the store dÈcor.
The produce department has an abundant selection colorfully displayed on attractive wooden merchandisers. A large mural of an orchard graces an entire wall of the department.
A deli, “Ruby’s Delicatessen and Catering” offers hot meal solutions and has a dining area. The “Upper Crust” bakery offers fresh-baked goods, and the meat department has in-store butchers and fresh seafood.
The store’s signage is informative and appealing. Lifestyle signage shows photos of people enjoying food. Aisle signage in colors of black, white and red proclaims “For Your Family ... Only the Best,” a theme that is carried throughout the store. The signage style also is incorporated on shelf markers indicating product selections.

floral at the front
The signage carries over to the floral department, where large letters proclaim “Floral” in friendly script overhead. The department, which measures 15 feet by 30 feet, is along the front wall of the store at customers’ right as they walk in and directly in front of the checkout stands.
The department grabs shoppers attention with well-merchandised, colorful products. Fixtures brim with blooming and green plants, bouquets and giftware. A cooler carries arrangements and flowers by the stem. Balloons throughout the department add more interest and movement. They’re also found at all the checkout stands to catch impulse sales.
The floral department is full service, offering custom designs, delivery within a 10-mile range, FTD flowers-by-wire service and event services, including weddings. Floral Manager Janet Boren reports that the floral department contributes 1 percent to 1.5 percent to total store sales.
Ms. Boren makes all the arrangements sold in the store. “That’s the most fun part of this job,” she says. She makes arrangements for customers while they shop, or they can call ahead to order. She also keeps an abundant supply of arrangements in the floral department’s cooler at all times. Designs left in the cooler after she leaves for the evening often will be sold out by morning, she reports.
Prices for arrangements average from $9.99 to $39.99, with $19.99 the most popular. One of her best-sellers is a vase design of five Gerbera daisies, New York Asters and ‘Misty Blue’ Limonium for $19.99. She includes a $3 to $5 labor charge when pricing arrangements.

flexibility in purchasing
Stores have the option of ordering products through AFS, with its huge buying power, or they can buy directly from growers and wholesalers. Annette Egan, AFS floral buyer and merchandiser, sends booking sheets to all the ARS floral managers and takes orders weekly. “They can buy anywhere they want,” Ms. Egan says. “Even though we own them, we allow them to keep their own identity and do what they do best.”
Most stores, including the Mill Creek location, do a combination, ordering from both Ms. Egan and other suppliers. Items that Ms. Boren orders from local wholesalers include products for Dan’s Foods’ popular flowers-by-the stem program.
Cut flowers are Ms. Boren’s top seller, and she moves an average of 350 stems a week through the program. Her cooler has a multitude of specialty flowers by the stem, including Irises at $1.69 each, sunflowers for $1.50, hybrid tea roses for $1.99, ‘Stargazer’ lilies for $3.79 and Gerberas for $1.69, as well as various foliages and accent flowers.
Customers love the program, Ms. Boren relates. They like to pick out their own flowers for their bouquets, and “we’ll wrap them and put a bow on them,” she says.
Bouquets also are popular. They are sold in racks at the entrance to the department, in the cooler and at the checkout stands. Prices range from $4.99 to $19.99, and Ms. Boren says she sells about 100 a week, with the $4.99 bouquet offering the best seller.

vibrant plant selection
Three large merchandisers hold Ms. Boren’s plant selection. During a recent visit by Super Floral Retailing, the plants were healthy, fresh and lush, with no brown or yellow leaves in sight. “We’re fortunate to have several local vendors we can order from, and they deliver the next day,” Ms. Boren says. “It’s a little bit fresher that way.”
Ms. Boren says she sells an average of 75 to 100 blooming plants and 50 green plants a week. Recent hot sellers were 4-inch green plants at two for $3. “I just got them in,” she says, “and they’re selling right out.”
Other plants in her department include rosemary at three for $10, 6-inch mums and Cyclamens for $8.99 each, ivy at $7.99 and upgraded plant baskets for $34.99, which Ms. Boren says sell well for funerals. Signage is large, abundant and tells customers what they are saving. An example: “Priced Right; 6-in. ivy; $7.99; regular price $9.99; you save $2.00.”

loyal customers
The product selection and service have inspired a loyal following among customers. “We see a lot of them every week,” Ms. Boren says. “We have a lot of widows who promised their husbands that they will come and buy a rose or a carnation every week, and they do.”
The store is located in an established neighborhood of Salt Lake City, and customers include both elderly clientele who have lived in the area for years and young families who buy products to decorate their homes.

drawing in customers
To keep her customers’ attention, Ms. Boren constantly changes the look of the department. “I love to make new things and decorate,” she says.
Ms. Egan, who offers all the AFS stores promotional themes, lauds Ms. Boren’s merchandising skills. “I give ideas,” she says, “but most of hers are all her own, and she does a really good job.”
During Super Floral Retailing’s visit, the department had the look of a garden on a spring day. A silk-flower-covered arbor was the focal point. Inside the arbor, Ms. Boren placed a bench occupied by a garden gnome and green plants. An old-fashioned street lamp added to the ambience. The dÈcor combined with the fresh, colorful plants and flowers for an inviting look.
Ms. Boren gets to expand into the foyer of the store during major floral promotions like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, which are her biggest-selling holidays. For Valentine’s Day this year, she made a lovers’ lane that started in the foyer and went into the store.
Customers loved the lovers’ lane, Ms. Boren reports. “They were so flabbergasted to see it all decorated and were really sad when it had to come down,” she says.
She puts up her holiday promotions about two weeks before the event, which gets customers thinking ahead about the holiday. “It really boosts the sales to do it two weeks in advance,” she says.

corporate support
Also helping the floral program is the corporate support that Dan’s Foods and the other AFS stores receive. Floral always has space in the weekly newspaper ad, with both a bouquet and a potted plant featured. Ms. Egan determines the ad items.
The ads, as well as all signage in the floral departments, are created by the corporate advertising department. “We have a really excellent advertising department,” Ms. Egan says. “I couldn’t say enough good about them.”
She sends out monthly newsletters and weekly bulletins informing floral managers of upcoming events, product pushes and promotions. In addition, she conducts a monthly “sounding board,” which is a conference call with invited floral managers who give and get feedback and discuss successes and challenges. “I rotate people in so that everyone gets a chance,” Ms. Egan says.
AFS has twice-yearly meetings where floral managers can meet with vendors and see new products. Ms. Egan conducts floral training sessions at those meetings.

on-the-job training
That training is important to the success of the floral program because most of the ARS floral managers had little floral background before joining their departments, Ms. Egan says. Most started in other store departments and moved to floral when there was an opening.
Ms. Boren had some experience, but her route to the floral department was similar. She has been with Dan’s Foods for five years, starting as a scanner, then moving to a supervisor position before going to floral three years ago. She learned her design skills through on-the-job training.
Now she’s a one-woman floral department most of the time, except during holidays when she has part-time help. She staffs the department from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The store is open from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m., and employees from the nearby customer-service department are cross-trained to help shoppers with floral purchases during floral’s off-hours.
During her shift, Ms. Boren’s skills at multitasking come into play. She designs arrangements, orders products, processes flowers (which come to the store drypacked) helps customers, merchandises her department and sometimes even makes deliveries. Says Ms. Boren, “It keeps me hopping!” 

You may reach Cynthia L. McGowan at or by phone at (800) 355-8086.

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